Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As I looked out over the crowds who had gathered for the launch of the IFP's Local Government Election manifesto on Saturday in Durban, I was reminded that the IFP is still a formidable force in South African politics. This is easy to forget if one looks only at the media coverage of the IFP. But it is a fact, and it's based on the people's mandate. South Africans want the IFP.
In KwaZulu Natal, the IFP runs 32 municipalities while the ANC runs 29. We are not the small fish fighting to survive. We are still the people's choice and I trust that on May 18th the people will speak again through the ballot box and call for an IFP led local government.
The IFP has proven that our municipalities are better run than ANC-led municipalities. We have always had the benefit of being able to point to our achievements, rather than pointing to our promises. This is why we often speak about the past. We are not afraid to let people judge us on our record.
As a popular talk show psychologist says, "The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour."
The ANC seldom talks about the past pre-1994, except to bolster its struggle credentials. But the ANC President, Mr Jacob Zuma, made an exception yesterday when he addressed a Nursing Summit in Sandton, where he spoke about the high social status nurses enjoyed within black communities during apartheid.
I am witness to what he was talking about, for my own wife, Princess Irene, studied nursing during the old regime. I recall how the young men at Fort Hare University used to sneak out at night to visit the nearby nursing college, for these young women were held in the highest regard. We called them the "city lights" and they were the best catch for any young man.
According to Mr Zuma, even the tsotsis would not pickpocket a nurse, and he believes our nurses should regain that privileged status. One must agree, particularly when the reality of the present is that nurses are not only pick-pocketed, but raped in hospitals in South Africa. They are not safe in the streets or even in their own workplace.
South Africa under the ANC has fallen far short of the idealized picture the leadership-in-exile painted before we achieved liberation.
It is therefore not surprising that our people are rising up in protest over the slow progress in transforming the everyday reality of life.
Even if political liberation was never going to bring the instant houses and jobs the ANC promised in 1994, it should have brought us closer to freedom from poverty. Yet the food price increases and fuel price increases we are experiencing today are rapidly impoverishing even working class families. More and more South Africans are becoming dependent on social grants.
I have sounded a warning before on the danger of creating a welfare state, as these states inevitably collapse under the weight of demands. Our Government must urgently find a way out of this crisis and place South Africa on the path towards a developmental state.
Rather than encouraging dependency, the state should be empowering people to self-reliance through education, skills training, employment and the creation of an economic environment in which entrepreneurs can prosper.
A recent report found that if South Africa produced 60 000 artisans today, they would all immediately have jobs. For several years now, the Department of Home Affairs, in consultation with the Department of Labour, has published a scarce and critical skills list which enumerates skills that South Africa desperately needs. This list has traditionally included thousands of teachers, artisans, engineers and technicians. Even tool makers, jewellery designers, vets and electricians have made the list.
Clearly it is not only about a lack of available job opportunities. It is about matching skills with jobs, and increasing skills to meet demand. Instead, in KwaZulu Natal, when the ANC took over leadership from the IFP at provincial level, it shut down many of the training colleges we had established. This makes no sense from an economic perspective.
According to the South African Health Review, in 2010 more than 46% of professional nursing posts were vacant. The problem for our nurses clearly goes deeper than regaining the community respect they enjoyed a few decades ago.
South Africa's high unemployment rate is putting pressure on families, while increased prices erode disposal income. As the cost of food increases, many households are having to make difficult choices about where to cut spending or, put another way, what to do without. For most South Africans, saving is impossible.
In fact, the Governor of the Reserve Bank has noted that household debt consumes some 77% of disposable income, which leaves precious little to purchase food and other necessities in the first place. So what goes? Food? Clothes? Doctors visits? Today one can put just about anything on a card in the hope of being able to pay for it later.
We are living dangerously, because we have to live. But it is grossly irresponsible of Government to ignore the warnings and allow our country to continue along this path, simply adding more social grants to keep our families going. Government must accept to walk the hard path of economic austerity, cutting wastage, arresting corruption and even ruffling the feathers of their alliance partner, Cosatu.
Over the past four decades the IFP has advocated bold economic steps.
Our track record of financial management in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government is impeccable. I point to this past because, every day, our leaders' decisions are shaping the future. Let us not look back in ten years time and wish we could rewrite the past. Let us rather choose a leadership now that is willing to face reality and pull us out of dependency and debt.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe,
Press Liaison Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP. 082 729 2510.